It’s the biggest game of the World Cup so far, and it’s almost here. England will play France for a place in the semi-finals of the Qatar winter World Cup. Both teams involved in this match enter knowing victory here would set them apart as one of the firm favourites to lift the trophy, but they know the damage an early exit would do. England and France aim to deliver a top-four finish, at the least, but there’s only room for one of these neighbours in the next round. Will it be the Three Lions, or will Les Bleus remain in the running to make it two in a row? We’ll find out on Saturday from 19:00 GMT when the teams come together.
England and France are long-term sporting rivals and have played out many pulsating contests. They often clash in international rugby in the Six Nations and are always hard-fought and exciting matches. But it’s the sport played with the feet that’s most popular in both countries, and fans will turn out in their thousands to pack the stadium and create a special atmosphere. Making it to Qatar and watching the match from the stadium isn’t for everyone, especially at this time of year, so there will be millions more following the live TV coverage.
Which side will go through, and how will they achieve their victory? Will it come in 90 minutes, or can we expect these evenly-matched teams – certainly on paper – to head into extra time and even penalties? England doesn’t have great results from the spot in major competitions, and Gareth Southgate’s men will want to wrap things up as soon as possible. No manager welcomes the lottery of penalty shootouts, and they have already claimed Spain and Japan. Read on as we evaluate the form of both teams and make predictions on how we think this last eight match will play out.
A vibrant England smash Senegal
England booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals by dispatching African representatives Senegal in the Round of 16. The Three Lions were widely supported to win that match and started as the favourites. Southgate’s men won that game by an impressive 3-0 scoreline, and it didn’t flatter the victors either. They took their time to grow into the contest, but when they hit the front, there was no stopping them. The Lions roared that day, laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament while sending a statement of intent to the other major nations still competing in Qatar.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson had come in for criticism ahead of the World Cup. Those against his inclusion in the squad argued he was too old and lacking in pace to merit a call-up. They had to eat their words when Henderson called on his big-game experience to smash England into the lead with a goal just before halftime. It was nothing short of what England deserved for their efforts, and it was soon two thanks to Harry Kane, who finally got off the mark, scoring his first goal in the Arab World. A third from Bukayo Saka, who, alongside Jude Bellingham, has fans excited about the future.
Bellingham was the man of the match in that win over Senegal, further boosting his stock following a mature performance in Group B, starting with a comprehensive victory over Iran in their opening fixture. The only slight blot on England’s copybook came in a frustrating and disappointing 0-0 draw with the USA on matchday two. That was a game they should have won, and they had plenty of chances to get the three points. But a lack of composure in attack meant they had to settle for a share of the spoils. There will be no draw in this match, and England fans take confidence from seeing their beloved team improve with the passing of each game.
Singing the Bleus
Followers of the French national team sang their praises from the rooftops after blasting a trail of glory to the World Cup in Russia four years ago. Les Bleus beat Croatia in the final to return to the top step, and they are determined to stay there. Many respected pundits had France picked as the second most likely team to win this competition after Brazil. Still, Les Bleus are attracting more attention as they continue to rack up wins, goals, and impressive performances. They remain the second pick, but the doubters who said they couldn’t make it two titles on the bounce may have to reconsider their position.
We last saw France in action at the Round of 16 stage when they blasted Poland last Sunday. The Poles had worked hard to get through their group. But they would have cursed their luck when meeting France in the next round. There were easier teams Poland could have played, and they were powerless to stop a champion that means business. France won that knockout match, eliminating their opponents from the race following a 3-1 victory. Giroud and a Mbappe double scored the goals. Lewandowski rifled home a late penalty that counted as a consolation for a side out of its depth.
In Group D, we only saw a snippet of what the 2018 champions could do, but they topped the division with a bit to spare. Without being at their best, France finished with two wins and a defeat, scoring six goals but conceding three. Tunisia inflicted one loss against their name, but it came on matchday three when the French had already booked a place in the next phase. It was a bitter pill to swallow for some fans, but the French players and backroom staff wouldn’t have lost any sleep over dropping points that didn’t change their finishing position.
England v France prediction
Here we have a meeting of two potential World Cup 2022 winners and two sides that have lifted the trophy in the past. There’s also a thrilling battle between Kane and Mbappe to enjoy. If England’s defence is as good as it has been, they could keep France at bay and hit them on the counter.
World Cup odds
22Bet members, new and existing, can back an England win at odds of 3.09 with the draw 3.184 and France trading at 2.41.
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